The essentials of international trade

JANUARY'S International eNews article explored some of the potential complexities around international trade in an ever-changing world and this month we explore some simple themes which are critically important in the context of global trade in the digital era.

The connectivity and ability to access information, which was heralded by the advent of the internet and grows exponentially with digitally enabled application, is invaluable in global trade. The many benefits and advances are well documented and without doubt.

It is critically important however that any individual or business embarking on global trade, harnesses the available technology but also keeps in mind the long established good practices of familiarisation with country, culture, counter-parties, customs and practice.

Taking time to ask intelligent questions, listen to the answers and remaining inquisitive at all times is an essential part of the foundation for successful global trade. We increasingly rely on rapid answers and immediate exchanges of information but risk making costly errors due to the simple failure to properly analyse the answers and challenge ourselves as to whether or not we have asked the right questions.

Developing relationships across a global network where an open and honest dialogue can take place, is not just good practice but an essential underpinning of long term sustainability. Taking time to reflect on what might not have been addressed, or better still, having relationships where one is able to ask "what should I have asked or what have we over-looked" might sound like basic common sense, but is all too often over-looked.

Through advising buyers and sellers of businesses all over the globe over many years, one of the toughest lessons to see people learn is that the early establishment of their international trade channels has overlooked some basic housekeeping which ultimately ends up reducing the value of a business in a future sale or investment round.

Take advantage of all the benefits of the digital age but do remember to take time to understand the people, businesses and cultures you are dealing with. No question is a "stupid question" unless constantly repeated or worse still, failing to carefully listen to the answer.